Maple Leafs couldn’t hold their leads and fall to Kyle Dubas and the Penguins

Photo credit:Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
3 months ago
It was a quick turnaround for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night as they travelled to Pittsburgh to take on Kyle Dubas and the Penguins in the second half of a back-to-back after their 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks the day prior. Not only were the Maple Leafs looking to get back in the win column after failing to hold their lead Friday afternoon, but they were set to play against their former GM for the first time since his firing in the off-season, so this game was a little extra special for both clubs.

First period:

Although both teams played the day prior, that didn’t stop them from starting the game on time, as Toronto and Pittsburgh came out of the gates flying in this one. Within the first five minutes of the game, Toronto was outshooting Pittsburgh 5-4, and the fans in attendance easily could’ve seen a goal within those first nine shots.
Lucky for the Maple Leaf fans in Pittsburgh, they were treated with a goal soon after, as the second line opened the scoring and got themselves on the scoresheet after being held pointless against Chicago. Morgan Rielly floated the puck toward the net, John Tavares redirected it on the net, and Tyler Bertuzzi, streaking toward the net, potted home his fifth of the season to give his team the early lead.
The Maple Leafs allowed the Penguins to find the equalizer, as Jake Guentzel beat Joseph Woll just 27 seconds after Bertuzzi got his team on the board.
At this point in the first period, there were a lot of shots on the net from both clubs. The game was already 1-1 just eight and a half minutes in, and that didn’t stop Toronto from putting pressure on the Penguins after allowing them to tie the game up. Although it wasn’t the entire first line out there, Matthew Knies was, and he scored a much-needed goal to regain the lead and to give a member of the first line another point because they’ve been struggling as of late to put points on the board.
Both teams continued to pour on the chances after Knies made it 2-1, and Toronto headed into the first intermission up one goal despite getting outshot 18-15 through the first 20 minutes.

Second period:

It was a shot fest in the first period that gave us three goals, as defence was optional to open the game, and I bet both coaches did not enjoy that very much. Both teams seemed to generate a lot of scoring chances, as it felt like there was a ton of open ice, so both teams probably talked about that during the intermission so they could tighten things up and cut down the scoring chances.
So, with that in mind, the shots were much lower to start the second period. However, one thing that didn’t change was Toronto allowing their opponent to score after they scored themselves. Just like when Knies opened the scoring, followed by Guentzel tying things up, former Maple Leaf Noel Acciari roofed one over Woll’s shoulder after a turnover as Pittsburgh tied things back up for the second time this game.
Toronto couldn’t find the back of the net in the second period. However, Pittsburgh did for the second time with just 28 seconds remaining in the period, as Erik Karlsson one-timed a shot from the point past Woll to give the Penguins the late 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.

Third period:

Down 3-2 and 20 minutes away from dropping consecutive games for the first time since November 2nd and 4th, Toronto needed a massive third period if they wanted to come back in this game to not only tie things up but get the win and head back home after a short two-game road trip in Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Toronto got the memo, and they thoroughly outplayed the Penguins in the final period, but they couldn’t solve Jarry for a third time, no matter how many shots they registered and how great the scoring chances were. Toronto outshot them 14-3 in the final 20 minutes but came away with nothing as they dropped their second straight game after winning four in a row heading into this mini road trip.
Although Toronto wasn’t guaranteed to sweep these two games, only picking up one out of the possible four points against two non-playoff teams, despite Pittsburgh being a better team than their record shows, is frustrating. The Atlantic division is tight this season, and Toronto sees itself occupying the last wild card spot, just two points ahead of the Islanders. Every point matters, no matter the time of the season.

Who stood out:

It was another game where Toronto’s core were meh at best. John Tavares showed up on the scoresheet with an assist on their first goal, and William Nylander, who played the most out of any forward last night (26:10), had his moments. It was another game where he failed to appear on the scoresheet after his 17-game season-opening point streak ended against Chicago.
Heading into last night’s game, Knies, Matthews, and Marner had combined for just eight points in their previous six games despite Toronto holding a record of 4-1-1 in those games. Last night, only Knies registered a point, while Matthews and Marner continue to look lost at times five-on-five.
Speaking of Knies, he had a good game. Obviously, scoring helps that, but it seemed like he was doing a little bit of everything last night, and his ice time proved that. He played 16:37, which was the most since November 10th against Calgary. He potted home his sixth goal of the season, to go along with five shots, one hit and one block.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Tuesday night on TSN4 against the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT. 
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